Review: the one you really want  by Jill Mansell

  
Carmen is getting through the grief of losing her husband, her friend Nancy is getting over her ex-husband’s cheating ways, and the ladies are hanging out in posh Chelsea … where men seem to be popping up wherever they go. Some are eligible, some pretend to be, and some pretend NOT to be — all for the sake of love… and money. 

I loved the twists and turns in this romp through different levels of relationships. I enjoyed meeting the neighbors, the shelter folks, the gym rats, the long lost daughter… Mansell writes a fun cast of characters and dialogue that’s funny, tender, and believable. 

I appreciate Mansell’s talent for spinning a tale that’s pretty crazy, but just real enough that it could be true. And as always, I’m happy when the characters are happy, and sighing with joy when they live happily ever after. 

-calliope

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Review: Too Many Cooks by Dana Bate

  
Kelly Madigan is a ghostwriter – for cookbooks. Reading Too Many Cooks, I loved living the life of a cookbook writer for a while. Kelly tested recipes in a fabulous London kitchen, bought produce from street markets, and rubbed elbows with a movie star and her British politico husband. 

My favorite part was the food! Kelly had to refine recipes to perfection. Though it may have been tedious for her to repeat recipes, it was pretty mouth-watering for me. Breads, soups, burgers, fries… Even the leftovers sounded good. 

There’s a little “love” story in here, but the book is mainly about Kelly gaining confidence, finding direction, and making her own way in a world that caters to those in the spotlight, not those behind the scenes. 

-calliope

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Review: Cocktails at Le Carmen by Isabelle Andover

 
Chloe’s transferred from London to Paris for a one- year work contract. And while she’s there she misses her mediocre boyfriend Scott, crushes on handsome boss Jean-Luc, and meets new confidante Rosie. All’s well that ends well, but a lot goes on in the meantime! 

This is a very light, fun story about shopping and girlfriends, cocktails and hangovers, and finding a good man while finding oneself. I enjoyed it but found some things a little disconcerting. Andover wrote in a few pages here and there that I thought were to move the plot in a certain direction, but then didn’t.  They weren’t quite plot twists, and they weren’t quite plot inconsistencies. They were just odd hints or teases that I expected to be fulfilled in some later chapter, but weren’t.  Some extra editing would have helped avoid these pointless insertions. 

Besides that, I loved the love story, the friendships and the sibling rivalry. Andover wrote a terrific male lead… who wouldn’t adore a Jean-Luc with a French accent?! 

Cocktails at Le Carmen is solid three star chick lit, and I’ll definitely pick up another Isabelle Andover… tout de suite! 

-calliope

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Review: Cocktails in Chelsea by Nikki Moore



If you like chick lit, this is a perfect lunchtime read. One hour of fun-filled romantic tension, with relatable main characters and a setting that holds your interest. The alpha male has personality, tenderness, and toughness. Sofia’s efforts to impress provide some laughs, and her eventual return to “herself” warms the heart. 

Cocktails in Chelsea grabbed me right out of reality for a while, ordering cocktails in a posh bar, and falling in like at first sight with a guy who’s much more than the bartender. 

-calliope

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Review: The Executioner’s Daughter by Jane Hardstaff

9781405268288When I was a kid, I loved simple horror stories. Just enough to raise the goosebumps on your arm, maybe a bit more to keep you awake at night. And I still love those kinds of stories today. The problem is, especially for me as a teacher, most scary stories don’t fall within the acceptable range for younger readers. This one by Jane Hardstaff is an exception to that rule.

Meet Moss, a young girl who lives alone with her dad. Dear old Dad just happens to be the executioner of the Tower of London. And Moss is responsible for collecting the heads after each beheading, catching them as they drop and putting them in a basket. It’s the only life she’s every known, and her dad is the only parent she’s ever had since her mom died during childbirth.

But there’s more to that story than Moss has ever been told, and it’s the reason they can’t leave the Tower of London. When Moss finds a way out, she’s inexplicably drawn to the river. The river is slow and steady some days, fast and unpredictable on others. And there’s something lurking just under the surface, something that’s taking young children. Moss discovers that she’s tied to the river in a way she never dreamed possible, going all the way back to her mom’s death.

This book was a pleasant surprise. Not that I was expecting bad things, but you just never know. It’s historical, most definitely, but it has a healthy dose of paranormal/thriller thrown in. And I have to say, this is the first book I’ve read that’s set in Tudor times. This is a story that I’ll definitely be recommending to some young readers who I know. And the sequel, River Daughter, is high at the top of my TBR list.

~Thalia

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Review: Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

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This is a romantic story, in the old-fashioned sense of it being nostalgic and dreamy and sigh-inducing. It blends a historical-coming-of-age story with a contemporary “finding oneself” plot. Rosie leaves London to help her aging great-aunt in the countryside. While she’s there she makes connections that fulfill an emptiness she didn’t even know she had. There’s a happily-ever-after, but it’s a tad bittersweet, kind of ironic for a sweetshop owner. 🙂

I loved Rosie’s story: her capers as a medical nurse, her hilarious clumsy attempts at traveling in the country, and her funny attempts at making friends.

I really didn’t like the flashbacks to Aunt Lilian’s youth. I’d be all into Rosie’s story and then BOOM Lilian’s story would interrupt it. You might like the alternating flashback format, but it seemed disjointed to me.

I really DID like the candy recipes and the editorial comments at the beginning of each chapter. I felt like the author was talking to just me, drawing me into the book!

My absolute favorite favorite parts of Sweetshop of Dreams were: when Rosie (with Edison by her side) tells off the dentist and Edison’s mom; and when Rosie goes careening off her bike head over heels. Yes, head over heels.

Sweetshop of Dreams turned into a contemporary romance after all. “Love is caramel… Always welcome… Easy melting of two souls into one… A taste that lingers even when everything else has melted away.” Lilian may have missed her chance at true love, but Rosie certainly “got lucky” when she moved to Lipton.

-Calliope

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Review: The Last Word by A. L. Michael

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Tabitha was playing it safe, blogging from home in her pajamas, going out occasionally with her roommates, and avoiding romantic relationships… Until editor Harry Shulman offered her a job at the newspaper doing real journalism. Tabby did everything she could to avoid the opportunity, remembering the disaster that landed on her the last time she worked for a major news outlet.

The conversations in this book are snappy! Tabitha’s convos with her roommates and Harry are quick-witted, and so are the times she’s just talking to herself… Useful characteristic for a blogger, but a little annoying when your editor is trying to ask you out on a date. 🙂

And oh how I enjoyed Harry and Tabby’s dates. Her head on his shoulder. Flirting on car rides. Restaurant debacles. The beach. Holding hands. Staring with affection and sometimes confusion. Kissing. Sigh. I was totally brought back to being in my twenties and going on fun dates and bantering and falling in love.

Every facet of The Last Word was done well. The characters were developed appropriately for their roles (Tabby’s mom was hilarious!), and, for the most part, they were likeable. (Ex-boyfriend/ex-editor was hate-able in a wonderful way.) The plot drove forward at a respectable speed. Everyone’s relationships made sense. Natural dialogue and excellent writing made for easy reading. I’m impressed, especially knowing that Carina UK, an imprint of the publisher Harlequin, is only a year old! Well done, A.L. Michael and editors.

The only interruptions to the flow of this terrific read were the drinking and weed-smoking binges. They aren’t really my scene, but I see how it could make sense if you’re in your twenties, living in the city with roommates also in their twenties.

Honestly, I know it’s a good book when at the end I shut the kindle cover and sigh with contentment. The Last Word totally did it for me. Tabitha was a spitfire sweetheart, and Harry was so awesome I could read ten books about the man! (A.L. Michael, does Harry have a doppelgänger?)

–Calliope

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